The first time Bobby Johnson wore his Super Bowl ring it was as an instrumental part of the New York Giants on their 1986 Super Bowl team. That ring, once sold when he was in the midst of his drug addiction, is now back in his life.
When Johnson put the ring on again three weeks ago, it signified an even bigger victory in his life. Now sober and clean from his painful addictions, Johnson is now a winner again.
It was an early October day splashed with sun and Johnson was part of the pregame activities at MetLife Stadium prior to the Giants much-needed win over the Baltimore Ravens. After signing autographs a member of the Giants alumni relations pulled him aside and walked him down, underneath the stadium. He didn’t know what was up, only that he was going to meet with someone in a few minutes. There was nothing extraordinary about the moment
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Under the bowels of the stadium he waited and waited until a team employee walked up to him and presented him with a box. Uncertain what was going on, Johnson looked on as the box was opened and inside was his Super Bowl ring. Emotions swirled. He hesitated, again uncertain what was happening.
Then he was handed a phone with a person on the other end of the line – Johnson won’t say who he spoke with but it is believed to be his former head coach Bill Parcells. The two talked for a few moments.
Johnson trembled as he put on a ring that hasn’t been on his finger in 27 years.
“As soon as I touched it, I knew it was mine,” Johnson told Metro.
“I just started crying. I cried.”
He cried for at least five minutes and didn’t take off the ring till he arrived home in Nashville the next afternoon. Even now, weeks later, he has no clue how the ring was tracked down or got to him.
He admits to missing it daily.
It was 1989 and Johnson had been out of the NFL for several years; he was on drugs and out of work. It was a tough time for him, living on the streets, sleeping in shelters or even his car. Directionless, Johnson had no idea where he was going in life or what tomorrow would bring. It was a tremendous fall from grace for him, a wide receiver on the Giants team who had a crucial catch in the 1986 regular season that helped propel the Giants to the playoffs and then the Super Bowl.
His teammates have admitted that years later, if it wasn’t for the catch, they wouldn’t have been champions.
But now three years after that big catch and winning the championship Johnson was on drugs, an addiction that would see him out of the NFL following the season he became a Super Bowl winner.
Johnson was at rock bottom that day 27 years ago when he walked into a pawn shop and sold his ring for a couple hundred dollars, enough to pay for some room and board for a night or two and a couple of hot meals. That’s where his life was at, living for the moment. From the Super Bowl to homeless and hooked on drugs.
He admits that the “ring was always an important thing to me, but that day it wasn’t the most important.” His lifestyle, his choices at the time were more important the Super Bowl ring. A lifetime of work to lift the Lombardi Trophy traded in for a fix for a few days.
Directly above him at MetLife Stadium, blue-clad fans are beginning to fill MetLife Stadium, hoping that this would be the Sunday that the Giants snap what it is a three-game losing streak.
As Johnson sat in a room in the stadium, staring at the box that contained the ring he last wore 27 years ago, he was moved to tears. He thought back to 1986 when he was a part of the Super Bowl team. Then he went to a few years later when he sold the ring for pennies on its value.
He couldn’t help but remark about life then and the decisions he made. Now he looks at his life and knows that he is on the sunny side of the road.
“I felt love from this person 30 years ago, I felt love for this person,” Johnson said of the person on the other end of the line, believed to be Parcells, who had helped retrieve the Super Bowl ring.
“But I wasn’t giving the love back. I wasn’t accountable for my actions. I wasn’t putting the team first, I was thinking of myself. For him to bend backwards for me is saying something about that man.”
As much as the ring, now in a safe deposit box, means to him it isn’t the most important thing in his life. He’s clean now and working full-time but he appreciates the Super Bowl ring now more than ever. For all the knocks he took in football, none were as tough as the knocks suffered the years after he stopped playing the game.
In the same breath he talks about his ring he directs to about how he appreciates his life and his second chance too.
“Right now God and my family – those are the most important things in my life,” Johnson said. “The ring is important, I love it. But it doesn’t define me and who I am. It’s nice, but it isn’t who I am as a man now.”
Currently the former Giants star is living in the Nashville area and is a shipping technician for a company that makes seats for Nissan. His story isn’t done as this upcoming spring he is excited to travel to Florida to speak to young people in a recovery program and share his story.
The hope is that he will be able to share his story, his faith with more people and help them through their own struggles through the same battles he has fought. This one is a lasting victory.
“This is my Super Bowl of life,” Johson says, pausing a moment. “That is what this ring is all about.”